After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Analyze the roles the emergence of a more powerful monarchy and religious changes played in the development of England and France in the Age of Discovery.
- Compare the goals and outcomes of early Chinese and Iberian voyages during this era.
- Evaluate the development of early globalization through exploration and trade.
- Analyze the connections between new technologies and the growth of the Age of Discovery.
- Evaluate the role of Africa in the period before contact.
The period before European contact with the Americas marked the beginning of globalization. During this time, the world became, in a sense, both larger and smaller. Voyages of exploration captured the immensity of the earth in maps, images, and the writings of travelers; simultaneously, emerging webs of connection between regions and peoples brought the world closer together. Thus, we often refer to this period as the “early modern era.” For the first time, we see the emergence of a world that bears great similarity to ours of the twenty-first century, a world interconnected through trade, politics, culture, and religion. China took the lead in oceanic exploration in the early fifteenth century, but by mid-century leaders stopped seeking overseas markets. They preferred to let the trade come to them. Chinese efforts gave way to the much more aggressive Portugal and Spain who competed for control of the Atlantic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Both countries had engaged in overland trade with the Islamic world in the Middle Ages and hoped to find alternatives to the land routes used to conduct business with the Indies. Meanwhile, England and France largely ignored the trend of oceanic exploration in the sixteenth century. While their leaders witnessed the success the Portuguese and Spanish had, internal problems blunted their ability to sponsor expeditions. As the European nations expanded their presence in the Atlantic Ocean, they also drew many African kingdoms into their global web. The European exploration of the early sixteenth century set the stage for later colonization in the Americas.
- 2.1: Europe in the Age of Discovery - Portugal and Spain
- Spain and Portugal led the European Age of Discovery, an era lasting from roughly 1450-1750, in technological advances, exploration, and colonization. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they emerged as leaders in this age; after all, the Iberian Peninsula protrudes out from Europe into the Atlantic Ocean, and rivers and harbors provided an ideal environment for sea trade as well as nurturing the art of boat building.
- 2.2: Asia in the Age of Discovery - Chinese Expansion During the Ming Dynasty
- Some historians of the twenty-first century have been influenced by the theories of Historian Gavin Menzies, whose best seller "1421: The Year China Discovered America" contends that the Chinese did indeed go well beyond the familiar trade routes, not only rounding the Cape of Good Hope, but also traveling to Australia and Central and South America.
- 2.3: Europe in the Age of Discovery - England and France
- Monarchs in England and France worked diligently to consolidate their power, between the twelfth century and the fifteenth century, which in turn led them to consider New World exploration and colonization. However, they lagged behind the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the Dutch because of the almost constant state of war between the two countries as well as the emergence of the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century.
- 2.4: Africa at the Outset of the Age of Discovery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
- Africa takes a central role in any discussion of increasing globalization during the Age of Discovery. First, emerging European explorations and global trade networks began with European contact with and exploration of Africa. Early Portuguese exploration started trade networks in gold, ivory, and slaves that invigorated the European economy. Later, trade expanded to incorporate the Americas, transforming into the Triangle Trade that encompassed the Trans-Atlantic slave trade network.
Thumbnail: Caravel Boa Esperança of Portugal | The triangular sailed, square rigged caravel was quick, agile, and seaworthy. Author: Navy of Brazil Source: Wikimedia Commons